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One of the Most Momentous Documents in American History: From the South Carolina Secession Convention Floor, the Original Call For a Southern Confederacy
In the Presidential election on November 8, 1860, though receiving less than a majority of the total popular vote, Abraham Lincoln won enough electoral votes to win. Two days later, the South Carolina General Assembly called for a "Convention of the People of South Carolina" to draw up an Ordinance of Secession. It also elected Francis Pickens as Governor. In his inaugural address on December 17, 1860, he made clear that the state's path was separation. On the same day as Pickens' address, the Convention convened at the capitol, Columbia, and chose David F. Jamison president of their body. Benjamin F. Arthur was elected Clerk, meaning that his signature would attest to the official copies of the Convention's ordinances and resolutions, including the Ordinance of Secession. Following this came intelligence that smallpox was raging as an epidemic in Columbia, and by the first train the next morning, the delegates and new Governor all went to Charleston. & & The Convention proceeded to business on the 18th by appointing several committees to consider various subjects, such as the nature of relations with the people of the other slaveholding states. A committee was also chosen to draft the secession document. It reported back the following proposed Ordinance: "We, the people of the State of South Carolina, in convention assembled, do declare and ordain‹ the Union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States, under the name of the United States of America, is hereby dissolved." & & It was noon on December 20, 1860 when the Ordinance of Secession was submitted for consideration, and by 12:45 the Convention had adopted it on a roll call vote of 169-0. The cry at once went forth, "The Union is dissolved!" The members of the Convention proceeded to sign the Ordinance in the presence of Governor Pickens, the members of the Legislature, and other dignitaries, and it was attested to by Arthur. Then Convention President Jamison exhibited the instrument to the people, read it, and said: "The Ordinance of Secession has been signed and ratified, and I proclaim the State of South Carolina an independent commonwealth." & & During the next days, the Convention passed laws and resolutions a new nation would require. Then it turned to a matter perhaps more vital than any. All realized that South Carolina could not realistically go it alone but needed to be joined by other slave-holding states in a larger confederacy. These states were by no means all as ready as South Carolina to secede, and their people needed to be convinced both that secession was justified, and that they should follow suit. Therefore, on December 24, 1860, the same day Gov. Pickens made a speech proclaiming sovereignty for South Carolina, the Convention addressed the first need and adopted a "Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which...Justify the Secession of South Carolina." & & The Convention immediately followed with an address "To the People of the Slaveholding States of the United States," urging their secession, and ending with a clarion call for establishment of a Southern Confederacy. "United together, and we must be a great, free and prosperous people, whose renown must spread throughout the civilized world, and pass down, we trust, to the remotest ages. We ask you to join us in forming a confederacy of Slaveholding States." Thus, the three documents that constituted the foundation of secession were in place: the Ordinance of Secession, the Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which...Justify the Secession, and the the People of the Slaveholding States (which culminated in a call for a Southern Confederacy). & & The time had now come to communicate these documents officially to the other slave-holding states, with the hope and expectation that they would act on them. The Journal of the Convention of the People of South Carolina reports that on December 25, the Convention resolved to direct Governor Pickens to transmit the three momentous papers to the slave state governors for them to provide to their legislatures or conventions. The Resolution was the birth certificate of the Confederacy, as it marked the official out-reach of the South Carolina Convention to the other slave states, and dispatched the first official call for a Southern Confederacy (the call that in fact resulted in formation of the Confederate States of America within just a few months). The text of the Resolution was written out and signed by B.F. Arthur in his capacity as Clerk, with his notation that it was adopted in Convention on December 25, 1860. Because this Resolution was in effect an order to Gov. Pickens directing him to act, the original in Arthur's hand was sent to the Governor, whose private secretary, B.T. Watts, docketed it on the verso "Resolution of the Convention". & & This is the original of that very document - the Resolution of the Secession Convention instructing Governor Pickens to inform the other slave-holding states of its secession and to call on them to form a Southern Confederacy, Charleston, December 25, 1860, written out and certified by the Convention clerk, B.F. Arthur. & & "That copies of the 'Ordinance of Secession' adopted by the Convention; and the 'Declaration of the immediate causes which induce and justify the secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union'; and of the 'Address of the People of South Carolina assembled in Convention, to the People of the Slaveholding states of the United States', be transmitted by the Governor of this State to the Governors of the slaveholding States for the information of their respective legislatures or conventions..." & & The goal of this document was achieved. By February 1, 1861, the secession of South Carolina was followed by the secession of six more states - Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. On February 4, 1861, just 41 days after this call was issued, delegates from the seceded states met in Montgomery, Alabama to form the Confederate States of America. Four more states - Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina - eventually seceded and joined the new government. The Civil War was imminent.
      [Bookseller: The Raab Collection]
Last Found On: 2013-07-16           Check availability:      Biblio    


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